Last night the band presented their pre-tour festival to a packed Birmingham Citadel congregation. The night began with the band being very much part of the congregation as they arranged themselves around the hall to play Martin Cordner’s “Fanfare and Flourishes”. In the more familiar surroundings of the platform, a very quiet, prayerful atmosphere was created as Darren Bartlett’s “The Lord is Gracious” was played.
Bandmaster Graham Lamplough introduced the night and our special guests for the weekend, Lt. Colonels Anthony and Gill Cotterill, followed by an emotional introduction for Bandmaster Andrew Blyth from Salvation Army Music Ministries who will be charged with taking the band on their tour of Canada. Andrew led the rest of the first half, which included superb solos from Gavin Lamplough (“Song of Exultation”) and Deputy Bandmaster Mark Sharman (“This I know”). Graham returned to lead the band in “El Es El Senor” before the band sang their rendition of Eric Ball’s “Were you there?”.
Lt Colonel Anthony Cotterill led a time of reflection based around Les Condon’s “Easter Glory”, with thoughts between each movement which related to each day of that first Easter Weekend. The congregation were then invited to join in with the brilliant song of testimony, “In Christ Alone”.
After a short interval, the second half began with the band once again amongst the congregation as a quartet of players stood around the hall to play the beginning of “Just a Closer Walk”, during which the audience and band made their way back to their seats in time for the remainder of the band to play the second part of that piece.
Andrew conducted his arrangement of the song “Shine Down”. Before the band played Andrew explained how the arrangement was requested by the ISB to feature a new Xylophone they purchased in the 1980’s, only for him to discover that the percussion section intended to substitute the Xylophone for a Glockenspiel! The next soloist was David Taylor who expertly played the brilliant Peter Graham euphonium solo, “Brilliante”. Neil Blessett then brought us into a more thoughtful, reflective time with the lovely melody “Demelza”, by Hugh Nash.
“Crimson Tide” demonstrated the band’s ability to bring secular music into a Christian context with great effect. “Psalm of Thanks” (a personal favourite), which was written for the band in 2008 by former bandsman, Paul Sharman, followed before BM Graham Lamplough returned to lead the band in the rousing “Dance of the Comedians” (Smetena).
“The Irish Blessing” has become a firm fixture in many band programmes as the closing benediction and once again it was used to great effect here with the band standing amongst the appreciative congregation.
This festival provided us with an insight into what the band will deliver to the people of Canada, and I think those who will be fortunate enough to hear them will be entertained, but more importantly, blessed by what they hear. We send our thoughts and prayers with the band as they embark on their Canadian tour in April. We pray that the message that they are privileged carry in the Lord’s name will touch the hearts and minds of those who hear them.